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Whooping cough outbreak spreads to at least 5 schools in Henderson County

Health officials in Henderson County confirmed seven cases of whooping cough between Hillandale Elementary School, Bruce Drysdale Elementary School, Clear Creek Elementary School, Rugby Middle School and East Henderson High School. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A whooping cough outbreak has spread to at least five schools in Henderson County.

Health officials in Henderson County confirmed seven cases between Hillandale Elementary School, Bruce Drysdale Elementary School, Clear Creek Elementary School, Rugby Middle School and East Henderson High School.

Additional students could be infected, with more than 500 students coming into contact with the seven students already diagnosed with the illness.

"It's a little bit concerning, because it's something that can be, you know, pretty serious, and especially for those who have infants," parent Elizabeth Burroughs said

Burroughs was concerned for her son at Hillandale Elementary School. A student there was first diagnosed with whooping cough in early November.

"My son was directly exposed about a week and a half ago, and, so, the school nurse called and, you know, explained what had happened and what I needed to do," Burroughs said. "But, he did not have whooping cough."

Still, Burroughs said, she had a lot of questions.

"How in the world did this happen?" Burroughs said, "because it's not really something that you hear about nowadays."

Burroughs was not the only parent with questions, which was why Kristina Henderson, a nurse who specializes in preventable and communicable diseases with the Henderson County Health Department, met with the county's school nurses.

"We do our best to call all the parents and find out if anyone in the home has certain high-risk conditions and find out if the student themselves have any symptoms consistent with [whooping cough]," Henderson said.

Henderson said the main concern is babies and pregnant women.

"The bacteria causes your sputum or your phlegm to be very, very thick. It's like concrete, and that's why it's so difficult, it's so dangerous for babies, because a baby's airway is not mature enough to be able to clear that," Henderson said, "and pregnant women who could lose the baby or go into pre-term labor from [whooping cough]."

Lab results from a few dozen other students who may have the illness were pending as of Tuesday evening.

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